A love of gardening has taken root in more than 220 kindergartens nationwide, thanks to the Daltons Sunflowers in Kindergartens Project.
Over the past four months 11,700 kindergarten children have been working hard to grow the tallest sunflower and widest sunflower head in their region — and today the biggest and best sunflower stars were revealed.
To reflect the variety of growing conditions throughout New Zealand, winners were named from each of 10 regions.
The objective of the now biennial project, is to create a fun environment for pre-school children to learn valuable gardening skills by growing their own Kings Seeds Skyscraper sunflower — which can grow up to 4m tall.
All of the regional winners will receive a prize from Daltons and The Warehouse, which joined as a project partner this year.
In the Waikato region, 939 children from Waikato Kindergarten Association were involved in the project.
Frankton Kindergarten won both the coveted Tallest Sunflower and Widest Sunflower Head awards for the region.
Their winning tallest sunflower plant grew to a staggering 3.20m, the highest ever grown nationally in the project's history.
The width of their sunflower head measured 14cm.
"Being part of the Dalton's Sunflowers in Kindergartens Project has been a fabulous experience for all," head teacher, Fleur Bethel, says.
"The tamariki and kaiako have enjoyed caring for, measuring, and observing the development of the plants.
"Families,whanau and the community have commented on how wonderful they look and how they want to grow some of their own."
Fairfield Kindergarten in Hamilton won Overall Best Photo with their picture of 4-year-old Māia who loved to compare her height against the growing sunflowers.
"We have loved being involved in the Dalton's sunflowers in kindergartens project," teacher Natasha Browne says.
"It's been great to see our tamariki learn new skills while enjoying the outdoors, digging in the soil, watering our plants and watching them grow as tall as our kindergarten."
Arataki Kindergarten in Mt Maunganui and Edmonds Smith Street Kindergarten in Woolston, Christchurch won the big national prize draw of a visit to their kindergarten from TV personality and award-winning landscape designer Xanthe White, who will run a personalised gardening workshop.
Each kindergarten nominated their own Daltons Best Little Gardener, who received a special certificate and prize.
Every child who took part also receives their own certificate as a keepsake.
"Our Sunflowers in Kindergartens Project is all about growing an interest in gardening by giving the littlest hands the chance to get dirty," Daltons general manager Colin Parker, says. "The children loved taking a tiny seed, caring for it and watching it turn into a huge blooming flower. The results delivered smiles to both the teachers and children, which was everything we hoped for.
"Congratulations to all our winners and a big thank you to our project partners." Daltons provided everything the kindies needed to make the growing successful and easy, including a starter pack.